Experts: 100% of nursing home residents need tests when someone is infected

Experts: 100% of nursing home residents need tests when someone is infected
FILE PHOTO (Jean-Francois BADIAS/AP)

More than one third of Ohio’s at least 1,400 COVID-19-related deaths have happened in nursing and assisted living homes, leading to grief for families mourning the loss of a loved ones, and uncertainty for other families with relatives in those facilities.

Numbers obtained by the I-Team reveal 23 coronavirus deaths at Miami County nursing homes since the pandemic started (three of those cases probable COVID-19). Between confirmed and probable cases for staff and residents at Koester Pavilion and Springmeade Health Center, 244 have been sickened.

“I describe it as…what would you be like if you were locked in your bedroom knowing right outside the door is the coronavirus,” said Amy Litko, whose father lives at Koester Pavilion, but has not been infected. “You just say a lot of prayers for everybody that’s in there,” she said.

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The Ohio Health Care Association, the trade organization for long term care facilities in Ohio, told WHIO more testing is needed to truly stop these deadly nursing home outbreaks.

“We need testing so that we know who’s positive. And that then dictates the steps that we take to protect the folks who are negative,” said executive director Pete Van Runkle, who said, if the tests were available, he’d like to see one hundred percent of patients at a home receive tests when one resident tests positive.

“It’s when we don’t know, and you have asymptomatic patients or asymptomatic staff going around the building doing what they need to do… and that’s where the spread happens like wildfire,” Van Runkle added. “And unfortunately, because of the shortage of testing, that’s happened in some places.”

The family of 93-year-old Earl Bolinger knows that all too well. The Koester Pavilion resident was among the first in the Miami Valley to die from COVID-19. Bolinger’s family described him as a “great person who lived a great life.” His son also was sickened by the virus, but recovered.

But even for recovered patients or those that haven’t had the virus, these are anxious times. Relatives cannot come visit, due to restrictions in place preventing visitors.

Litko says that has only raised her anticipation for the day she can finally see her father again. She was recenty relieved to see his face when a nurse at Koester Pavilion sent her a photo of him holding a sign that read, “I’m doing OK…Thanks for all the snacks…I love you.”

“It’s just going to be the best thing ever,” she said, of the day she can finally see her dad. “That’s going to be the best thing ever, it really is.”